“Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.” — “Terence Mann,” Field of Dreams
These are just a couple of famous quotes about baseball, the “National Pastime.” The game so lyrically described by the fictional Terence Mann in the classic “Field of Dreams.” The sport so important to the fabric of the nation, FDR asked it to play on despite a world conflagration.
No one can deny that COVID-19 has provided us with a unique moment in history, and many of the nation’s sports leagues have risen to the challenge.
"I think, you know, right now our job is to be prepared for the season. That means keeping our football schedule as best we can — obviously with modifications to make sure we're doing it safely but we're going to be prepared and ready, and we're planning on playing this fall even though it may be different." — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“A lot of people have pointed to the financial component of this. The incremental difference at this point between playing and not playing isn’t nearly as great as people think, especially given the enormous expense of putting this on. It’s more a sense from the entire NBA community that we have an obligation to try this. Because the alternative is to stay on the sideline. And the alternative is to, in essence, give in to this virus.” — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
“We think sports does brings people together and it helps them heal from difficult times. Yes, the economic consequences of this are terrible, but finishing the season is more about finishing the season than it is about the economics, by a longshot.” — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
“When we first put together the tournament concept at Disney, we just were very uncertain about when we’d be able to return to our stadiums in our own markets. We thought why don’t we get them all together, get 26 teams together in one neutral site, play games every day and get our players back on the field for our fans. But very importantly doing it with games of consequence – a total prize pool of a million dollars and the winner getting a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. All of this is our best foot forward to do what we can in an exciting, compelling and meaningful way to return to play for 2020. — MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
Heck, even the NCAA is trying to figure out football in the fall, and those kids technically don’t get paid. The so-called “national pastime,” by comparison?
“It unfortunately appears that further dialogue with the league would be futile. It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.” — MLBPA executive director Tony Clark.
“I’m not confident. I think there’s real risk; and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is going to continue. The owners are 100% committed to getting baseball back on the field. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m 100% certain that’s going to happen.” — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Yes, that’s right. At precisely the moment the nation needs it the most, baseball once again is telling the nation “meh.”
I love baseball. This sport truly has been the fabric of my life. Yet, it repeatedly tells me I’m a fool.
In 1981, I was too young to truly understand the absurdity of its months-long strike and Micky Mouse A-ball split season, but the 1994 debacle managed to drive me away from the for the better part of a decade.
Now, when a nation is crying for some level of normalcy after having its life ripped apart for months on end, baseball can’t put aside its toxic owner/player relationship for a couple of months for the benefit of the greater good.
Imagine, in the wake of 9/11, arguably baseball’s greatest moment, it instead decided to take the opportunity to quibble about the next round of bargaining?
For the last few years, this sport has cried about losing fans. It has crapped on all of its tradition in its misguided attempt to update the game. Maybe, just maybe, a better tack might be to improve treatment of its fans.
At this point, it doesn’t matter who is “in the right” in this argument. What will matter, when all is said and done, is if baseball showed up. Stop angling for a leg up for the next round of negotiation and do what is right by the fans?
The national pastime? Well, it’s two polarized factions unable to reach an agreement if their lives depended on it, so maybe there is no better representation of the American condition than the state of this game.